Heather wasn’t entirely sure if it was a sign or a curse. She was leaning toward curse. She had attended with every intention to quit. It was going to be her last day. But those knitters with their passion for their craft and their constant encouragement and their overall pleasantness were quite intimidating.
So, despite her earlier determination, she drew a name for the Valentine’s gift exchange. Even that would have been fine, if she had drawn anyone else’s name. She would have come to her senses and put the name back. But she had the misfortune of pulling Angela’s name.
So here she sits, sipping lemongrass tea, sitting dejectedly near the back of the coffee shop, and contemplating the duality of the accursed.
“Hey! Mind if I sit with you?”
Angela has a certain effect on Heather. Nothing too extreme, your standard ‘crush on you, turns me to mush’ effect. Heather was merely inexperienced at handling such effects. Angela ordered an earl grey tea and joined Heather at her table. They talked about the weather for a bit. Heather liked talking about the weather, and she never understood why chatting about the weather is considered so negatively, it affects so much of your life. Angela always was up for talking about the weather. It was one of the things that left Heather with a sense of contentment when she talked to her. And as it always does, the conversation turned to knitting.
“Heather, who’d you pull for the exchange?”
“Isn’t it supposed to be a secret?”
“It’s not like it’s secret santa. Apparently, they do gift exchanges a lot. I hope we have one for arbor day.”
“The tree planting holiday?”
“Well, I’m not gonna plant trees. Might as well knit a scarf in celebration of those who will.”
“Glad I won’t be there for that. Not a huge fan of green.”
“What do you mean you won’t be there?!”
Angela always had a way of putting Heather at ease. She was easy to talk to and had a brilliant, disarming smile. Of course, this led to situations, like this one, where she’d nonchalantly blurt out things that might have been to her advantage to keep to herself.
“Well… I’m quitting the knitting circle. Today was supposed to be my last day but I guess I got caught up in the excitement.”
“But why are you leaving? Have we made you uncomfortable?”
“No no. Everyone’s wonderful, I’m just no good at knitting and it is a bit intimidating, everyone else has been knitting for years.”
“I only started in November and if you’re gone, I’ll be the only novice. You’re my comrade! Don’t abandon me.”
“Angela, you have an affinity for knitting that I lack, you have to admit. You’ll be fine.”
It wasn’t that Heather was horrible at knitting, it’s that she was so consistently horrible at it. No even tension to speak of, yarn slipping off needles at random intervals, and some stitches just seemed beyond her comprehension. At one point, she had even hoped that her lack of improvement was simply due to being distracted by Angela. After all, caring about what a person thinks of you, can lead to you messing up in front of them. But time and practicing at home had proven that theory wrong. She just kinda sucked.
It had been a frustrating and humbling two months.
“I’ll tutor you.”
“I have an affinity, right? Then let’s workshop. See where and why you’re having trouble. Just hold on until the gift exchange and if you still want to quit, I won’t stop you. But please, give me the chance to help you first.”
“I’d feel bad putting you through all that work.”
“Don’t dismiss it out of hand, we can discuss it over tea or something.”
“I mean, technically, we’re already doing that. We have tea and we’re discussing it.”
“I’m serious. You’d be doing this as a personal favor to me. Please?”
Suffice it to say, they set up time to meet later that week.
“Yeah. Tension is a surprisingly easy fix. Instead of focusing on the yarn’s tension in your hand, just focus on the size of the stitch on the needle. Do your best to keep them the same size, adjust as needed, and you’ll be good to go.”
They’d been working nearly two hours already and were still on the knit stitch. Heather now had more resources than she knew what to do with. She owned a couple knitting books already but Angela had gifted her another and was letting her borrow two more, with the promise of even more to come. The first hour was spent watching some of Angela’s favorite online instruction videos. They watched four seperate videos about the same casting on method. They were all at different angles. Heather quickly learned that what she’d mistaken for an affinity for knitting was actually an affinity for intensive study. Angela had begun knitting in November but had begun researching well before that, in September. It took time and a great deal of patience, but progress was being made.
Angela had helped Heather fix a few issues she was having and set solid groundwork for future lessons. She didn’t plan to let Heather leave until they’d taken care of Heather’s personal blind spot, the purl stitch.
The purl stitch is simply the knit stitch backwards so whenever Heather would attempt it, she’d end up either with a knit stitch or an impressive mess. To begin this lesson, Angela sat close to Heather and began the first row of stitches, she explained what she did with each stitch, with each movement of the needle. And with the second row, she did it again, explaining each movement, going painstakingly slow so Heather could concentrate on each movement.
“Okay. Now I want you to put your hands on mine.”
“Because it helps. I’ll keep going and you’ll put your hands in place over mine for muscle memory or something. It works. I had Ms. Johnetta do this exercise for me when I was trying to get the hang of the purl stitch. This exercise is already proven to work for the exact stitch you need, so come on.”
And so they continued, this time with Heather’s hands over Angela’s as she continued to listen and watch her knit. Heather was acutely aware of how close they were sitting. She was close enough to tell that Angela smelled faintly of vanilla, perhaps from baking. Heather did try her best to concentrate, she really did. But hours of work and sitting tensely had taken its toll and she wasn’t getting anywhere with this lesson.
“Okay. I’m done.”
“We just started.”
“No, no. We are into the third hour of this little workshop and you’re suggesting we do this TWICE next week? I am a human being, not a knitting machine, which are actually a thing apparently?”
“My research hasn’t covered that.”
“Anyway, what was I saying? I’m tired and toxic fitness culture lied, you do not work through the pain!”
“Are you in pain?”
“Well, no. I mean, my hands are a bit stiff.”
“I can show you some stretches for that. And, would you like to take a break?”
“Oh my goodness, yes!”
“Well that’s no problem. I’ll make tea, it’ll help you relax. You know, you ramble when you’re stressed out.”
Heather did know. She also knew that when she was really nervous she used uneccessarily big words. This time, she was far too tired to be nervous. Heather hadn’t realized how tired she was until she gave herself a chance to rest. Sitting so close to the object of one’s affections while simultaneously attempting to master the fundamentals of knitting can lead to a certain tenseness.
This short story was originally written for the Wattpad account RomanceSparks’ Valentine Anthology.
Find Part Two Here